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COVID-19 impact: India is leaving beer out of the fridge, hard liquor finds favour

Home delivery models such as those implemented in states like Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal have also not been able to help sales

July 28, 2020 / 11:30 PM IST

As people stock up their refrigerators to keep up with the coronavirus-induced lockdown, beer is increasingly getting left out of the list. Beer giant United Breweries (UB), that controls half of India's beer market, said consumers are increasingly preferring hard spirits such as vodka, rum and regular whiskey since it is easier to store, The Economic Times reported. 

According to the report, despite the consumption of alcohol not being taboo, it is still not routine to store beer in the family fridge. Since it has a shorter shelf life, the demand for beer has shrunk in comparison to the demand for hard liquor.

Speaking to Economic Times, Shekhar Ramamurthy, Managing Director at UB said, "It is not that people don’t want to drink beer. But the opportunity to drink beer becomes complicated by the fact that it needs to be consumed chilled and some of that gets converted into liquor", adding that this has impacted the industry.

Home delivery models such as those implemented in states like Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal have also not been able to help sales since outlets prefer hard liquor, according to beer giants UB and AB InBev, the report said.

“While we laud a few state governments for enabling e-commerce/home delivery of alcohol, all the above factors, including surge in pricing due to high taxation, have created a situation where beer just doesn’t seem a lucrative option for consumers," said Karthikeya Sharma, President - South Asia at AB InBev.

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The demand slide for beer comes after brewers expected a flat fiscal due to the economic slowdown prior to the pandemic and stringent taxation policies, the report said, adding that beer makers do not expect a recovery any time soon.

India was one of the largest beer markets and consumed about 340 million cases per year (at 7.8 litres per case), prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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first published: Jul 28, 2020 07:04 pm